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Intellectual property
The name game

Does an attraction need a well known brand to entice visitors in or is there still room for originality? Christian Lachel offers some advice

By Christian Lachel | Published in Attractions Management 2013 issue 4

We’re seeing it more and more in the press and trade papers: Disney buys Lucasfilms (Star Wars) for a record US$4bn (E3bn, £2.5bn); new movie-based theme park announced in Dubai; Hello Kitty expands overseas with new park in mainland China.

What’s all the buzz about? Why is there an ever-growing uptick of parks and attractions leveraging existing intellectual property (IP)? Is this a good strategy? (It may have something to do with the success of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, which has caffeinated the Orlando Park and will soon be drawing fans in Hollywood and Osaka, Japan.)

So, how do you judge the value of licensing known IP versus generating something original? Conventional wisdom is that IP gives you bang for your buck. You’re able to leverage someone else’s brand or “an established creative product”, to draw customers to your attraction. But does it work for everyone?

When Disneyland opened in July 1955 it featured a lot of IP, but it all belonged to, and had been created by, Walt Disney and all of it was crafted to align with the ambitious thematic storytelling of his still-magical park. Disneyland was, literally, Disney’s Land.

But Disney is Disney, right? The great exception? No. Most of the world’s most successful attractions launched and succeeded without buying outside IPs – they created their own. Just look at Universal, Merlin, Knott’s Berry Farm, Europa-Park, Alton Towers, Everland, Puy du Fou, Ocean Park, Liseberg, Eftling and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

So what is the mid-sized or smaller start-up attraction to do? What do you do if you have an existing park that needs refreshment? Sometimes IP is the right answer, sometimes not. Here are some principles to help clarify your thinking.

The only IP worth buying is the one you probably can’t afford.
The IP you really want is the one priced beyond your reach because it encompasses a vast universe of connected stories, settings and characters. We call this story world IP. This kind of IP has the depth, breadth and narrative ambition to offer an ever-expanding story world to the guest. Story world IP has a strong and dedicated fan base while appealing to all visitors. Mega IPs include Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Avatar.

These IPs will be animating the public imagination for decades to come. But you can’t afford them. Instead, studio licensing execs are offering park owners lesser movie or character based properties. These are less compelling and could well be forgotten a few years from now. And they can still be pretty expensive.

When calculating the value of an IP, focus on its future value, not its current value. Make sure the projected life of the IP matches the projected economic life of the investment. Real estate and IPs sometimes amortise at very different rates. Story world IPs have longevity and make sense. Others may not.

Nostalgic characters can create powerful emotional connections.
Nostalgia is a powerful tool that connects older generations to newer ones. Certain IPs can have this affect. Nickelodeon, Thomas the Tank Engine, Sesame Street, Peppa Pig and Hello Kitty span generations. Often the shows are still playing in the market. The parents remember the joy they had with the brand, as their kids discover it for themselves.

What’s the key? The best nostalgic and popular character-based IPs have an engine of transmedia marketing support, which ensures the IP stays relevant and new. This includes a network of new media offerings, advertising, events and attractions. If you can afford these types of IP, they may be worth the investment.

There’s a difference between an IP and an attraction.
The license only gives you an IP (characters, a title, a logo, a story). Who will turn that IP into an attraction, a ride or a show? What will that cost? Compare the costs, tasks and risks of the investment with other alternatives, such as developing something that you’ll own outright.

The most valuable walk-around character in your park is your guest.
Will the IP in question allow guests to enter a special world they love to be in? The IP may have created extraordinary narrative experiences in the movie or on the tv show, but will this translate to your park? How can you invite your guests to become participants in your story? Guests have entered your ‘world’. Who do they want to be? What IP approach best delivers on these needs and wants?

Beat the Clock
Our experience is that licensing an international IP can have a positive impact, similar to installing a new iron ride. Even if unrelated to the over-all brand of your park, a good international IP will most likely give you a one- to two-year attendance bump and some additional revenues based on promotional value and newness.

Conventional IP also bolsters banking credibility. Bankers, backers and investors often don’t trust their ability to judge an un-built and un-produced creative idea. They may be reassured by the involvement of a well-known international IP and, therefore, be more likely to loan or invest in your park.

The problem is that when you go down this path, you mount a treadmill with no off switch. You’ve got to keep generating new IP-based attractions every year or two to appeal to fickle customers.

The other problem is in the overall investment calculation. In some cases, the licensing costs of the IP offset the gains made in admission price, attendance and additional spend in the park. But it might not give you the gains you were hoping for – does the licensing cost balance with the upside?

It’s way too easy to fall into the “Logo and Paint” approach – freshening an old attraction with a bright new IP logo and some paint. More often than not, the short term gains you make are off-set by the licensing costs. Once the initial bump wears off, you’re stuck with the fees without the added impact. Always default back to the most important question you can ask: Does this help me create the story world I imagined for my visitors?

What makes my attraction special?
The long-term play for park owners and developers is acquiring or creating content that distinguishes your park from others. The ultimate purpose of original content is to transform your park into its own story world. Examples of this are: Puy du Fou – France’s second-most-visited theme park is a series of astonishing action-packed shows featuring hundreds of actors, horsemen, swordsmen and volunteers. Everything about this park is original, from the ambition of its creators to the program to the content and production of the shows themselves. (See AM Q1 12 for a review of the park.)

Europa-Park – the largest theme park in Germany and the second largest park in Europe, after Disneyland Paris. Europa-Park has 100 attractions and shows, with 11 roller coasters and 13 European themed areas – and not a single conventional IP. Everything at this very successful park is unique to Europa-Park. However, that’s changing. In the hope of reaching the French market, Europa-Park’s creating an indoor themed area inspired by the universe of Arthur and the Invisibles from famous French filmmaker Luc Besson. This looks like a story world attraction that aligns with Europa-Park’s themes.

Legoland – yes, a strong IP, but they have it and no one else can get it.

Another way of approaching the same idea is to ask: when you advertise your new attraction, will you be promoting public awareness of something you own or something someone else owns?

Who are we?
Does this IP make you more like yourself? Or more like everyone else?

You really want to make your brand stronger by adding attractions that deeply resonate with, and build on, who you are and what’s unique about you. In the words of film director Brad Bird: “Bugs Bunny didn’t become famous by trying to be like Mickey Mouse.”

Ask yourself: To build my brand, what story does my attraction want to tell? Does this IP make my park’s IP stronger or more confused? What helps me tell my story? Does this support the special identity of my park and deepen its narrative values?

Eftling, Puy du Fou, Ocean Park, and others create original content and prove that this is the wisest long-term investment, if done right. Original content is evergreen. Each piece supports and complements the other pieces.

Make sure it has legs.
What’s the commitment of the studio or brand toward the IP you’re considering? Is there a second, third or fourth film in the works? Is there a transmedia world of marketing and air-time supporting it?

Look for IP that has significant support from the studio or brand and continues to have relevancy in your market. If there’s no support, no relevancy or if the IP is tired, then it’s probably best to skip this approach and find or create something else that does.

Disney’s about to create an Avatar Land inside its Animal Kingdom Park. What makes this a smart move is that filmmaker James Cameron – modern master of the story world blockbuster film – has committed to Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4. These films will deepen and broaden the story world and create new opportunities for guests to enter this enchanted world.

Be relevant to the local culture.
If you’re going to license IP, pay attention to your local culture. Ocean Park is in Hong Kong where the locals like squid legs. So Ocean Park serves squid legs and their guests love them for it.

Serving the local culture could mean selecting an international IP that the local culture loves. For example, Captain America wouldn’t make sense in Malaysia, but Hello Kitty does.

Or, to serve the local culture, you might want to “go local.” Instead of international IPs, look at the local IPs that audiences already love. They might be inexpensive to acquire and have more relevancy with your target audience and market. Or they might be in the public domain and yours for the taking. Use the IP money you save to create a really great attraction.

What’s old, is new again.
Henry David Thoreau famously said, “Don’t tell me what is new. Tell me what is never old.” The BBC’s reinvented Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century, even as Robert Downey Jr was re-inventing him as a 19th century action hero. The theatrical producing company PunchDrunk reinvented Shakespeare’s Macbeth as an immersive, site-specific, interactive work of theatre. The presentation method is innovative, but the story works because of Shakespeare’s exploration of evergreen narrative themes – good versus evil, how the lust for power corrupts the soul and the role of fate in the human adventure.

The best IPs are great, soul-stirring stories. Les Miserables was published 151 years ago and just recently produced a smash Broadway musical and movie blockbuster. Your next IP may be something just waiting for you and hiding in plain sight. And – like Les Miserables – it might not cost you a penny.

Dare to be original.
“Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit.”

Ansel Adams said this. Believe it. Your park is a story world. Your guests are adventurers. The biggest wow you can give them is a memorable, original, life-affirming journey.

At BRC, we’ve studied the great modern creators of rich, dynamic, electrifying story worlds – George Lucas, James Cameron, Walt Disney, JK Rowling, Hayao Miyazaki, the Pixar folks, Jim Henson, Steven Spielberg, Gene Roddenberry and Stan Lee and his compatriots at Marvel.

What do they all have in common? They each create a deep, rich, wondrous story world based on the hopes, fears and beloved wishes and dreams of their scores of fans. This is the perfect definition of a successful theme park. So, if you want to generate original content for your park and turn it into a story world, begin by asking the kinds of questions that these tried-and-tested creators ask:

What are the core narrative values of your park?
Disneyland is a place where you leave the common world behind and enter a rich world of fantasy and imagination.

Knott’s Berry Farm is a place where families create memories by having story-based experiences (including having a chicken dinner) together.

At Puy du Fou, the people of France celebrate their heritage as warriors, adventurers and explorers.

Eftling is an enchanted place where guests can live fairy tale adventures.

Guests have entered your world. Who do they want to be?
Look again at that list of heroic values for icons of modern mythical storytelling – courageous, daring, smart, loyal, impetuous, vulnerable and, ultimately, powerful. And they must be powerful enough to defeat the forces of evil and death, just like those evergreen heroes Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and Spiderman.

Final Thought
Steve Jobs refused to do market research for Apple products. He said: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

One of the main benefits of IP is also one of its drawbacks – it’s a known quantity that can be market tested. This means that there’s no surprise, no delight and no shock of the new.

Story worlds are unique IP that can provide surprise and delight because of their deep, rich mythology – but only the Disneys and Universals of the world can afford the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes to license them.

The answer for everyone else – Eftling, Puy du Fou, Europa-Park, Ocean Park, probably your park – is to create original content without external IP. The great original content parks prove that this is the wisest long-term investment, if done right. Original content is evergreen. Each piece supports and complements the other pieces. Piece by piece, you build a story world your guests will love.



Christian Lachel
Vice president and senior creative director, BRC Imagination Arts
clachel@brcweb.com
+1 818.841.8084 
www.brcweb.com

Harry Potter is an evergreen IP – his appeal will last for generations to come
Legoland didn’t just create its own IP –Legoland is the IP
Hello Kitty is a perfect fit for Malaysia and China
Puy du Fou in France created its own IP with a series of action shows involving hundreds of actors, horsemen and volunteers
Squid legs are a favourite snack in Hong Kong, so Ocean Park made sure to include them on the menu Credit: photo: FLICKR/Michael McDonough
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Jobs . News . Products . Magazine
Intellectual property
The name game

Does an attraction need a well known brand to entice visitors in or is there still room for originality? Christian Lachel offers some advice

By Christian Lachel | Published in Attractions Management 2013 issue 4

We’re seeing it more and more in the press and trade papers: Disney buys Lucasfilms (Star Wars) for a record US$4bn (E3bn, £2.5bn); new movie-based theme park announced in Dubai; Hello Kitty expands overseas with new park in mainland China.

What’s all the buzz about? Why is there an ever-growing uptick of parks and attractions leveraging existing intellectual property (IP)? Is this a good strategy? (It may have something to do with the success of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, which has caffeinated the Orlando Park and will soon be drawing fans in Hollywood and Osaka, Japan.)

So, how do you judge the value of licensing known IP versus generating something original? Conventional wisdom is that IP gives you bang for your buck. You’re able to leverage someone else’s brand or “an established creative product”, to draw customers to your attraction. But does it work for everyone?

When Disneyland opened in July 1955 it featured a lot of IP, but it all belonged to, and had been created by, Walt Disney and all of it was crafted to align with the ambitious thematic storytelling of his still-magical park. Disneyland was, literally, Disney’s Land.

But Disney is Disney, right? The great exception? No. Most of the world’s most successful attractions launched and succeeded without buying outside IPs – they created their own. Just look at Universal, Merlin, Knott’s Berry Farm, Europa-Park, Alton Towers, Everland, Puy du Fou, Ocean Park, Liseberg, Eftling and Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

So what is the mid-sized or smaller start-up attraction to do? What do you do if you have an existing park that needs refreshment? Sometimes IP is the right answer, sometimes not. Here are some principles to help clarify your thinking.

The only IP worth buying is the one you probably can’t afford.
The IP you really want is the one priced beyond your reach because it encompasses a vast universe of connected stories, settings and characters. We call this story world IP. This kind of IP has the depth, breadth and narrative ambition to offer an ever-expanding story world to the guest. Story world IP has a strong and dedicated fan base while appealing to all visitors. Mega IPs include Star Wars, Harry Potter, Marvel, Lord of the Rings, Star Trek and Avatar.

These IPs will be animating the public imagination for decades to come. But you can’t afford them. Instead, studio licensing execs are offering park owners lesser movie or character based properties. These are less compelling and could well be forgotten a few years from now. And they can still be pretty expensive.

When calculating the value of an IP, focus on its future value, not its current value. Make sure the projected life of the IP matches the projected economic life of the investment. Real estate and IPs sometimes amortise at very different rates. Story world IPs have longevity and make sense. Others may not.

Nostalgic characters can create powerful emotional connections.
Nostalgia is a powerful tool that connects older generations to newer ones. Certain IPs can have this affect. Nickelodeon, Thomas the Tank Engine, Sesame Street, Peppa Pig and Hello Kitty span generations. Often the shows are still playing in the market. The parents remember the joy they had with the brand, as their kids discover it for themselves.

What’s the key? The best nostalgic and popular character-based IPs have an engine of transmedia marketing support, which ensures the IP stays relevant and new. This includes a network of new media offerings, advertising, events and attractions. If you can afford these types of IP, they may be worth the investment.

There’s a difference between an IP and an attraction.
The license only gives you an IP (characters, a title, a logo, a story). Who will turn that IP into an attraction, a ride or a show? What will that cost? Compare the costs, tasks and risks of the investment with other alternatives, such as developing something that you’ll own outright.

The most valuable walk-around character in your park is your guest.
Will the IP in question allow guests to enter a special world they love to be in? The IP may have created extraordinary narrative experiences in the movie or on the tv show, but will this translate to your park? How can you invite your guests to become participants in your story? Guests have entered your ‘world’. Who do they want to be? What IP approach best delivers on these needs and wants?

Beat the Clock
Our experience is that licensing an international IP can have a positive impact, similar to installing a new iron ride. Even if unrelated to the over-all brand of your park, a good international IP will most likely give you a one- to two-year attendance bump and some additional revenues based on promotional value and newness.

Conventional IP also bolsters banking credibility. Bankers, backers and investors often don’t trust their ability to judge an un-built and un-produced creative idea. They may be reassured by the involvement of a well-known international IP and, therefore, be more likely to loan or invest in your park.

The problem is that when you go down this path, you mount a treadmill with no off switch. You’ve got to keep generating new IP-based attractions every year or two to appeal to fickle customers.

The other problem is in the overall investment calculation. In some cases, the licensing costs of the IP offset the gains made in admission price, attendance and additional spend in the park. But it might not give you the gains you were hoping for – does the licensing cost balance with the upside?

It’s way too easy to fall into the “Logo and Paint” approach – freshening an old attraction with a bright new IP logo and some paint. More often than not, the short term gains you make are off-set by the licensing costs. Once the initial bump wears off, you’re stuck with the fees without the added impact. Always default back to the most important question you can ask: Does this help me create the story world I imagined for my visitors?

What makes my attraction special?
The long-term play for park owners and developers is acquiring or creating content that distinguishes your park from others. The ultimate purpose of original content is to transform your park into its own story world. Examples of this are: Puy du Fou – France’s second-most-visited theme park is a series of astonishing action-packed shows featuring hundreds of actors, horsemen, swordsmen and volunteers. Everything about this park is original, from the ambition of its creators to the program to the content and production of the shows themselves. (See AM Q1 12 for a review of the park.)

Europa-Park – the largest theme park in Germany and the second largest park in Europe, after Disneyland Paris. Europa-Park has 100 attractions and shows, with 11 roller coasters and 13 European themed areas – and not a single conventional IP. Everything at this very successful park is unique to Europa-Park. However, that’s changing. In the hope of reaching the French market, Europa-Park’s creating an indoor themed area inspired by the universe of Arthur and the Invisibles from famous French filmmaker Luc Besson. This looks like a story world attraction that aligns with Europa-Park’s themes.

Legoland – yes, a strong IP, but they have it and no one else can get it.

Another way of approaching the same idea is to ask: when you advertise your new attraction, will you be promoting public awareness of something you own or something someone else owns?

Who are we?
Does this IP make you more like yourself? Or more like everyone else?

You really want to make your brand stronger by adding attractions that deeply resonate with, and build on, who you are and what’s unique about you. In the words of film director Brad Bird: “Bugs Bunny didn’t become famous by trying to be like Mickey Mouse.”

Ask yourself: To build my brand, what story does my attraction want to tell? Does this IP make my park’s IP stronger or more confused? What helps me tell my story? Does this support the special identity of my park and deepen its narrative values?

Eftling, Puy du Fou, Ocean Park, and others create original content and prove that this is the wisest long-term investment, if done right. Original content is evergreen. Each piece supports and complements the other pieces.

Make sure it has legs.
What’s the commitment of the studio or brand toward the IP you’re considering? Is there a second, third or fourth film in the works? Is there a transmedia world of marketing and air-time supporting it?

Look for IP that has significant support from the studio or brand and continues to have relevancy in your market. If there’s no support, no relevancy or if the IP is tired, then it’s probably best to skip this approach and find or create something else that does.

Disney’s about to create an Avatar Land inside its Animal Kingdom Park. What makes this a smart move is that filmmaker James Cameron – modern master of the story world blockbuster film – has committed to Avatar 2, Avatar 3, and Avatar 4. These films will deepen and broaden the story world and create new opportunities for guests to enter this enchanted world.

Be relevant to the local culture.
If you’re going to license IP, pay attention to your local culture. Ocean Park is in Hong Kong where the locals like squid legs. So Ocean Park serves squid legs and their guests love them for it.

Serving the local culture could mean selecting an international IP that the local culture loves. For example, Captain America wouldn’t make sense in Malaysia, but Hello Kitty does.

Or, to serve the local culture, you might want to “go local.” Instead of international IPs, look at the local IPs that audiences already love. They might be inexpensive to acquire and have more relevancy with your target audience and market. Or they might be in the public domain and yours for the taking. Use the IP money you save to create a really great attraction.

What’s old, is new again.
Henry David Thoreau famously said, “Don’t tell me what is new. Tell me what is never old.” The BBC’s reinvented Sherlock Holmes for the 21st century, even as Robert Downey Jr was re-inventing him as a 19th century action hero. The theatrical producing company PunchDrunk reinvented Shakespeare’s Macbeth as an immersive, site-specific, interactive work of theatre. The presentation method is innovative, but the story works because of Shakespeare’s exploration of evergreen narrative themes – good versus evil, how the lust for power corrupts the soul and the role of fate in the human adventure.

The best IPs are great, soul-stirring stories. Les Miserables was published 151 years ago and just recently produced a smash Broadway musical and movie blockbuster. Your next IP may be something just waiting for you and hiding in plain sight. And – like Les Miserables – it might not cost you a penny.

Dare to be original.
“Millions of men have lived to fight, build palaces and boundaries, shape destinies and societies; but the compelling force of all times has been the force of originality and creation profoundly affecting the roots of human spirit.”

Ansel Adams said this. Believe it. Your park is a story world. Your guests are adventurers. The biggest wow you can give them is a memorable, original, life-affirming journey.

At BRC, we’ve studied the great modern creators of rich, dynamic, electrifying story worlds – George Lucas, James Cameron, Walt Disney, JK Rowling, Hayao Miyazaki, the Pixar folks, Jim Henson, Steven Spielberg, Gene Roddenberry and Stan Lee and his compatriots at Marvel.

What do they all have in common? They each create a deep, rich, wondrous story world based on the hopes, fears and beloved wishes and dreams of their scores of fans. This is the perfect definition of a successful theme park. So, if you want to generate original content for your park and turn it into a story world, begin by asking the kinds of questions that these tried-and-tested creators ask:

What are the core narrative values of your park?
Disneyland is a place where you leave the common world behind and enter a rich world of fantasy and imagination.

Knott’s Berry Farm is a place where families create memories by having story-based experiences (including having a chicken dinner) together.

At Puy du Fou, the people of France celebrate their heritage as warriors, adventurers and explorers.

Eftling is an enchanted place where guests can live fairy tale adventures.

Guests have entered your world. Who do they want to be?
Look again at that list of heroic values for icons of modern mythical storytelling – courageous, daring, smart, loyal, impetuous, vulnerable and, ultimately, powerful. And they must be powerful enough to defeat the forces of evil and death, just like those evergreen heroes Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter and Spiderman.

Final Thought
Steve Jobs refused to do market research for Apple products. He said: “People don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

One of the main benefits of IP is also one of its drawbacks – it’s a known quantity that can be market tested. This means that there’s no surprise, no delight and no shock of the new.

Story worlds are unique IP that can provide surprise and delight because of their deep, rich mythology – but only the Disneys and Universals of the world can afford the hundreds of millions of dollars it takes to license them.

The answer for everyone else – Eftling, Puy du Fou, Europa-Park, Ocean Park, probably your park – is to create original content without external IP. The great original content parks prove that this is the wisest long-term investment, if done right. Original content is evergreen. Each piece supports and complements the other pieces. Piece by piece, you build a story world your guests will love.



Christian Lachel
Vice president and senior creative director, BRC Imagination Arts
clachel@brcweb.com
+1 818.841.8084 
www.brcweb.com

Harry Potter is an evergreen IP – his appeal will last for generations to come
Legoland didn’t just create its own IP –Legoland is the IP
Hello Kitty is a perfect fit for Malaysia and China
Puy du Fou in France created its own IP with a series of action shows involving hundreds of actors, horsemen and volunteers
Squid legs are a favourite snack in Hong Kong, so Ocean Park made sure to include them on the menu Credit: photo: FLICKR/Michael McDonough
 


ADVERTISE . CONTACT US

Leisure Media, Portmill House, Portmill Lane,
Hitchin, Hertfordshire SG5 1DJ Tel: +44 (0)1462 431385

©Cybertrek 2019

ABOUT LEISURE MEDIA
LEISURE MEDIA MAGAZINES
LEISURE MEDIA HANDBOOKS
LEISURE MEDIA WEBSITES
LEISURE MEDIA PRODUCT SEARCH
ATTRACTIONS MANAGEMENT NEWS
ATTRACTIONS HANDBOOK
PRINT SUBSCRIPTIONS
FREE DIGITAL SUBSCRIPTIONS